I have been having an argument with myself about writing for the past few weeks. Maybe you noticed. I’ve been thinking about what I’m willing to sacrifice for the right to write. I have hit my bottom line, I am happy to report. I thought my bottom line was self-imposed poverty, but it turns out that was a bounce point. I went there mentally, emotionally and physically and tried it out, but found that I need to be up a little higher or I simply flat-line. This all has to do with my beliefs about writers that are somewhat messed up: I have cultured and curried the belief in a little jar called “Writer,” that writers need to be reclusive and be willing to sacrifice abundance, if, perhaps, only for a while until their hunger and suffering drive them to write, finally, that insanely commercial story of a lifetime. There was always supposed to be that eventual exit from isolation. I pursued this belief as far as I could pursue it by painting myself into a veritable corner. I walked away from almost everything to try to be this writer, so starving on so many levels that I would finally write. I forced myself to believe that my only ticket out could be writing that perfect story.
All that rye grass in my field on the right hill, with the somewhat compromised Western light, and drainage problems, has been sitting frozen, un-harvested because it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t a peach orchard, fully developed and producing succulent heirloom peaches grown from peach pits. It was rye grass. Pfft. I forgot what I put it there for so consumed with digging holes in frozen soil was I, and living my frustrated pit-iful dream of writing something important someday. To mix metaphors, I thought that the only way out of this corner I’ve painted myself into was to produce those peaches.
Something happened last weekend to change my point of view. A concerned friend read my last post about sacrifice, and stepped out on a limb by suggesting that “until grocery stores accept prayers” I might want to accept my own need, and the needs of my family, to make a living even as I’m writing and transitioning out of the corner. Oriah, thank you! It was a meaningful exchange that helped me to receive support from various sources that I’ve been rejecting out of pride for quite some time. Just that little bit of accepted flow last Saturday, turned into a sustainable trickle by week’s end. That trickle has helped me to feel not so pinched, not so trapped into the corner I painted myself.
Low-and-behold somehow the paint I used to trap myself in this corner has dried, and I cannot actually pretend anymore that I’m not allowed to cross the floor now. Right now. Upon the realization that I can’t live in the corner and write the story I dreamt of, everything shifted.
It is funny how things change in a quick moment. The Universe immediately takes notice and begins to shift the whole world around us – just like The Fool who in a moment of ecstasy doesn’t notice he’s about to walk off a cliff and so God moves the mountain to meet his feet – unexpected paths appear right underneath our feet that we missed seeing with our eyes. I’ve been reminded of lessons I learned so long ago, and tucked in the shed by the future orchard, like rusty old tools. Can you imagine realizing that I don’t have to dig the holes with my hands? You may laugh at the concept of that silliness, but really, that’s what I was trying to do metaphorically. I remembered just last week that I own a shovel, and a plow and even a funky looking screw thing to get the holes started. What’s more, the ground is thawing.
Let me put this is plain language: I reached out to the world last week, and it reached back. My shed of tools is quite extensive. I have lots of experience to share with some lucky people…if only I’ll let them know that I’ve taken the pad-lock off. I decided this absolute isolation thing is for the … not the birds …it’s for some other creature. Therefore, I’m volunteering for a full day in a co-working space in the town next door. I’m hoping I’ll meet some like-minded, forward thinkers who have a twinkle in their eye about whatever they’re passionate. I re-did my resume again and started to send it out into the void just to see if the economy really has turned a corner. People started calling me again, as if they knew I’d actually pick up the phone fearlessly. The birds have returned even, red-winged black birds twirling their songs so casually in spite of the chill air, as if they know it will pass soon.
My plan is to return to writing as I always have written before, squeezing it into a full life, because I found out, after a year in the corner, that my misery doesn’t produce the whole truth I look for in my work. Partial truths of anxiety, alienation and sad stories may work for some writers, but not me. In order to plant this orchard, I have to be able to afford the peaches, and yes, it may take even longer, and I’m late already, but the vision isn’t gone, just shifted a little towards my heart. So I’m walking out on my freshly painted floor, and I’m turning around, and painting over that corner so I can live my life.